Happy  Birthday "Zez" Confrey


"Zez" Confrey, Composer
b. Peru, IL, USA
d. Lakewood, NJ, USA
né: Edward Elzear Confrey
Edward Elzear "Zez" Confrey was born in Peru, IL, and began to play piano at the tender age of four. Maturing rapidly, Confrey was already leading his own dance band in high school. After graduation, Confrey undertook a course of study in serious music at the Chicago Musical College and there became enamored of the French Impressionists, whose "modernistic" sense of harmony would play a key role in his work as a composer and pianist. In 1915, Confrey took his first professional job as a music demonstrator in the Chicago office of Harry von Tilzer's company.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Confrey joined the QRS piano roll company as a pianist and roll editor. Confrey would make nearly 200 piano rolls during his lifetime, mostly editing them himself. One of his first QRS rolls was an original number entitled My Pet. With this work, Confrey single-handedly ushered in the field of novelty ragtime, a style that took on structural features of French Impressionism and did not suffer amateur pianists gladly.

In 1921, Confrey scored a huge hit with Kitten on the Keys, which sold over a million sheet music copies and made Confrey a household name in popular music. Also in 1921, Confrey also began to make phonograph records and by 1932, he had appeared on records made for Edison, Emerson, Brunswick, Victor, and HMV. 

On February 12, 1924, Confrey appeared as a soloist, billed above George Gershwin, in a few numbers at the historic Experiment in Modern Music concert in Aeolian Hall where Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was premiered.

In addition to Kitten on the Keys, Confrey is also known for the popular song Stumbling (1921) and pieces such as You Tell 'Em Ivories (1921), Coaxing the Piano (1922), Dizzy Fingers (1923), and Nickel in the Slot (1923). Confrey wrote his last novelty rag, Giddy Ditty, in 1935. Later that year, Confrey moved from QRS to the Aeolian company, but by the late '20s, Confrey's roll editing output began to slow down.

He continued to compose and publish music until his retirement after World War II. Confrey's extensive output ultimately contained many character pieces for piano, pop songs, mini-operas, and teaching pieces. Despite the variety of the works Confrey undertook, it is as the King of Novelty Ragtime that his reputation is made.
~ Uncle Dave Lewis
Bill Finegan
b.Newark, NJ, USA.
Best recalled as co-leader of the "Sauter-Finegan Band"
William James Finegan (3 April 1917 — 4 June 2008) was an American jazz bandleader, pianist, arranger, and composer.
Jessel, George [Albert] (1898–1981), comic actor and producer. Born into a poor Jewish family in the Bronx, he took to the stage in 1907 to help support his sick father.

Eddie Cantor and George Jessel in 
"Kid Kabaret" in San Francisco, CA, 1912.

Jessell formed a vaudeville act with Jack Wiener, who became a Hollywood agent, and Walter Winchell, the renowned columnist. Later Winchell and Jessel joined Gus Edwards's famous schoolchildren act, performing alongside Georgie Price and Eddie Cantor, and by 1920 Jessel was producing his own miniature revues for vaudeville.

About the same time he first did his most celebrated turn, his monologue that pretended to be a phone call to his demanding mother. In it he swore he knew nothing about the money missing from the cupboard, he hadn't eaten a piece of the cake she had baked for a charity affair, and no, that was not his cigar butt, since he didn't smoke.

Jessel appeared on Broadway in the Shubert Gaieties of 1919, The Passing Show of 1923, Sweet and Low (1930), and High Kickers (1941).

He co‐produced the latter as well as several other shows. On occasion Jessel also appeared in straight plays, most notably as Jackie Rabinowitz in The Jazz Singer (1925).

Georgie Jessel Hugging Wife Florence Courtney IMAGE: © Bettmann/CORBIS DATE PHOTOGRAPHED: October 25, 1925

His last years were spent as a Hollywood producer and as a celebrated after‐dinner speaker.Autobiography: So Help Me, 1943.

Ken Kersey, Piano
b.Harrow, ONT.Canada

Mistinguett (April 5, 1875 – January 5, 1956) was a French actress and singer, whose birth name was Jeanne Florentine Bourgeois. She was at one time the best-paid female entertainer in the world.


The daughter of Antoine Bourgeois, a 30-year-old day-laborer, and Jeannette Debrée, a 21-year-old seamstress, Jeanne Bourgeois was born at 5 Rue du Chemin-de-Fer (today Rue George-Israël), in Enghien-les-Bains, Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France, France. The family moved to Soisy-sous-Montmorency where she spent her childhood; her parents later worked as mattress-makers.

At an early age Bourgeois aspired to be an entertainer. She began as a flower seller in a restaurant in her hometown, singing popular ballads as she sold blossoms. After taking classes in theatre and singing, she began her career as an entertainer in 1885. One day on the train to Paris for a violin lesson, she met Saint-Marcel, who directed the revue at the Casino de Paris. He engaged her first as a stage-hand, and here she began to pursue her goal to become an entertainer, experimenting with various stage-names, being successively Miss Helyett, Miss Tinguette, Mistinguette and, finally, Mistinguett.

Bourgeois made her debut as Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris in 1895 and went on to appear in venues such as the Folies Bergère, Moulin Rouge and Eldorado. Her risqué routines captivated Paris, and she went on to become the most popular French entertainer of her time and the highest paid female entertainer in the world, known for her flamboyance and a zest for the theatrical. In 1919 her legs were insured for 500,000 francs.

Though Mistinguett never married, she had a son, Léopoldo João de Lima e Silva, by Brazilian diplomat Leopoldo de Lima e Silva (died 1931); the latter was a grandson of the Duke of Caxias. She also had a long relationship with Maurice Chevalier, 13 years her junior.

She first recorded her signature song, "Mon Homme", in 1916. It was popularised under its English title "My Man" by Fanny Brice and has become a standard in the repertoire of numerous pop and jazz singers. 
During a tour of the United States, Mistinguett was asked by Time magazine to explain her popularity. Her answer was, "It is a kind of magnetism. I say 'Come closer' and draw them to me."


Mistinguett died in Bougival, France, at the age of 80, attended by her son, a doctor. She is buried in the Cimetiere Enghien-les-Bains, Île-de-France, France.
Upon her death, writer Jean Cocteau observed in an obituary, 
"Her voice, slightly off-key, was that of the Parisian street hawkers—the husky, trailing voice of the Paris people. She was of the animal race that owes nothing to intellectualism. She incarnated herself. She flattered a French patriotism that was not shameful. It is normal now that she should crumble, like the other caryatids of that great and marvelous epoch that was ours".

Mistinguett - Wikipedia

Mistinguett- The Moulin Rouge biggest star who in 1919 insured her legs for 500,000 francs
Mistinguett - Biography - IMDb
Mistinguett | French comedienne | Britannica.com

The Georgia Crackers
Hank Newman
C&W Vocals/Guitar/String Bass
b. Cochran, GA, USA,
d. July 1978.
Member: "The Georgia Crackers" (aka: 'The Newman Brothers') consisting of Hank Newman, (né: Henry J.Newman), "Slim" Newman (Vocals/Guitar, né: Marion Alonzo Newman, b.June 18, 1910, Cochran, Georgia, USA), and Bob Newman (singer-Songwriter/String Bass/Guitar, né: Robert Newman, b.October 16, 1915, Cochran, Georgia, USA)
Walter "Fats" Pichon
b.New Orleans, LA, USA
d. Feb.26, 1967.

Fats Pichon was considered a valuable pianist, arranger and singer by New Orleans jazz musicians. He moved to New York as a teenager and soon studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Pichon toured Mexico with the Eleven Aces and then spent 1926-28 back in New Orleans, leading his own band and working with Sidney Desvigne. He went back to New York in late 1928, sang on a Luis Russell record and freelanced.
Pichon worked in Texas with the Dusky Stevedores (1929), played with Elmer Snowden and Fess Williams (1931) in NY and then he moved back to New Orleans, where he worked with Desvigne, A.J. Piron and his own group.
Pichon gigged a bit in Memphis (1935), toured with Mamie Smith and was often featured as a soloist and singer during the 1940s and '50s in New Orleans and New York. He had to cut back on his activities in the '60s due to failing eyesight. Pichon led a session in 1929 (two songs in a trio with Red Allen and Teddy Bunn), two unaccompanied solos in 1946, four cuts in 1947 with a trio (for DeLuxe) and a full-length Decca trio album in 1956.
~ Scott Yanow

Billy Taylor, Sr.
Tuba/String bass/arranger
b. Washington, D.C.
d. Sept 2, 1986, Fairfax, VA, USA.

Not to be confused with the famous pianist, this Billy Taylor (whose son Billy Taylor, Jr. was also a fine bassist) was best-known for his period with Duke Ellington's Orchestra, directly preceding Jimmy Blanton. Taylor started out playing tuba in 1919 and switched to bass by the early 1930's. He moved to New York in 1924, worked with Elmer Snowden (1925) and played regularly with Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten (1927-29) before joining McKinney's Cotton Pickers (1931-32).

Taylor spent a period back with Johnson (1932-33), recorded with Fats Waller and was with Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in 1934 for a short time before it broke up. Taylor was a regular member of Duke Ellington's Orchestra during 1935-40, making many recordings both with Duke and with the small groups led by Ellington's sidemen. When he first came into the band, Taylor and Wellman Braud were both employed as bassists. After Braud left, Taylor was the main bassist although for a period Hayes Alvis was hired to play second bass.

In 1939 Jimmy Blanton became Duke's second bassist and Taylor quickly recognized Blanton's genius and voluntarily quit Ellington's Orchestra. Taylor then worked with Coleman Hawkins' Big Band, Red Allen's Sextet, Joe Sullivan (1942) and then did studio work at CBS and NBC. Further associations included the Cootie Williams Big Band (1944), Barney Bigard's Combo, Benny Morton and Cozy Cole. After a period freelancing, Taylor moved back to Washington D.C. where he was semi-retired but still playing into the 1970's. Billy Taylor, who was on many records in the 1930's and 40's, led two record dates of his own, one apiece for Keynote (1944) and H.R.S. (1947).
~ Scott Yanow

"Homesick" James (Williamson)
Blues guitar/vocals.
b. Somerville, TN, USA.
d. Correct age in doubt. He claimed 1905.

His correct age may remain in doubt (he's claimed he was born as early as 1905), but the slashing slide guitar skills of Homesick James Williamson have never been in question. Many of his most satisfying recordings have placed him in a solo setting, where his timing eccentricities don't disrupt the proceedings (though he's made some fine band-backed waxings as well).

Williamson was playing guitar at age ten and soon ran away from his Tennessee home to play at fish fries and dances. His travels took the guitarist through Mississippi and North Carolina during the 1920s, where he crossed paths with Yank Rachell, Sleepy John Estes, Blind Boy Fuller, and Big Joe Williams.

Settling in Chicago during the 1930s, Williamson played local clubs and recorded for RCA Victor in 1937. The miles and gigs had added up before Williamson made some of his finest sides in 1952-53 for Art Sheridan's Chance Records (including the classic "Homesick" that gave him his enduring stage name).

James also worked extensively as a sideman, backing harp great Sonny Boy Williamson in 1945 at a Chicago gin joint called the Purple Cat and during the 1950s with his cousin, slide master Elmore James (to whom Homesick is stylistically indebted). He also recorded with James during the 1950s. Homesick's own output included crashing 45s for Colt and USA in 1962, a fine 1964 album for Prestige, and four tracks on a Vanguard anthology in 1965.
Williamson has never stopped recording and touring; he's done recent albums for Appaloosa and Earwig. No matter what his current chronological age, there's nothing over-the-hill about the blues of Homesick James Williamson.
~ Bill Dahl
Homesick James - Wikipedia

Dooley Wilson

Arthur "Dooley" Wilson (April 3, 1886 – May 30, 1953) was an American actor and singer, who is best remembered as the piano-player and singer Sam who sings "As Time Goes By" at the request of Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) in Casablanca (1942).

Wilson was a drummer and singer who led his own band in the 1920s, touring nightclubs in London and Paris. In the 1930s he took up acting, playing supporting roles onstage on Broadway and in a series of modest films. 

His role in Casablanca was by far his most prominent, but his other films included My Favorite Blonde (1942) with Bob Hope, Stormy Weather (1943) with Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers, and the western Passage West (1951).

Early life and career

Arthur Wilson was born in Tyler, Texas, and broke into show business at the age of 12, playing in a vaudeville minstrel show. He sang and played the drums in black clubs in the Tyler area before he moved to Chicago. He received the nickname "Dooley" while working in the Pekin Theatre in Chicago, circa 1908, because of his then-signature Irish song "Mr. Dooley", which he performed in whiteface. He worked in black theatre in Chicago and New York for most of the period from 1908 to the 1930s, although in the 1920s he toured Europe as a drummer and singer in his own band, the Red Devils.

From the 1930s to the 1950s Wilson worked in motion pictures and Broadway, including with Orson Welles and John Houseman at the Federal Theatre. His breakthrough Broadway appearance came in the role of Little Joe in the musical Cabin in the Sky (1940–1941).[4] This led to his signing with the Paramount studio in Hollywood.


Sam, Dooley Wilson's role, is a singer and pianist employed by nightclub owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart). The Herman Hupfeld song "As Time Goes By" appears as a continuing musical and emotional motif throughout the film. Rick and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) regard it as "their song" and associate it with the days of their love affair in Paris. According to Aljean Harmetz, Variety singled him out for the effectiveness of the song, and The Hollywood Reporter said he created "something joyous". The phrase "Play it again, Sam", commonly believed to be a quote from the film, is never used. In the film, Wilson as Sam performs several other songs for the cafe audience: "It Had To Be You", "Shine (1910 song)", "Knock On Wood (1942 song)", "Avalon" and "Parlez-moi d'amour (song)".

Wilson was a singer and drummer, but not a pianist. Sam's piano playing in the film was performed by Elliot Carpenter, who was placed where Wilson could see and imitate his hand movements. Carpenter was the only other black person on the Casablanca set, and the two remained friends for the rest of Wilson's life. For his role as Sam in Casablanca, Wilson was paid $350 a week for seven weeks, although other reports say that he was paid $500 a week.

Wilson reunited with Bogart, portraying another piano player in Knock on Any Door in 1949.

Later life and career

By the time Paramount lent him to Warner Bros. for his role as Sam in Casablanca, he had already appeared in over 20 films. He was later in the cast for the film version of Stormy Weather (1943), an all-black musical, as Gabe, the best friend of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's character.

Back in New York, Wilson played Pompey, an escaped slave, in the musical Bloomer Girl (1946–1948). His performance of the song "The Eagle and Me" in this show was selected by Dwight Blocker Bowers for inclusion in a Smithsonian recordings compilation, American Musical Theatre. Later, he played the role of Bill Jackson on the television situation comedy Beulah during its final 1952–1953 season.

Dooley, who was on the board of the Negro Actors Guild of America, died on May 30, 1953, shortly after he retired from show business. He is buried at the Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Dooley Wilson 
Notable Events Occurring 
On This Date Include:

Composer Kurt Weil died.
Age: 50.

Florence Cole Talbert in 1925.
Florence Cole-Talbert, vocals
died in Memphis, TN, USA.
Age: 70.

Gene Sedric, tenor sax
died in New York, NY, USA.
Age: 55.

Hy Heath, songwriter
died in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Age: 74.

Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Paul Biese Orchestra - Never Again

Rosa Henderson - How Come You Do Me Like You Do

Rosa Henderson My Papa Doesn't Two-Time No Time

Rosa Henderson accompanied by Fletcher Henderson's Jazz Five - Clearing House Blues

Bailey's Lucky Seven - After The Storm - There's Yes! Yes! In Your Eyes


Waring's Pennsylvanians - Does My Sweetie Do - And How!


Fess Williams and his Joy Boys - Dixie Stomp
Bessie Brown - Arkansas Blues
Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra - Lila

Ted Weems and his Orchestra - Dream River

Ted Lewis and his Band - A Jazz Holiday
  • Jungle Blues

The Travelers - Am I Blue?
Carolina Club Orchestra
  • Coquette
  • Honey
  • Underneath The Russian Moon
The Dorsey Brothers Concert Orchestra
  • Lover, Come Back To Me Part 1
  • Lover, Come Back To Me Part 2
Miss Billie Young accompanied by Jelly Roll Morton - When They Get Lovin' They's Gone

Ted Weems and his Orchestra - Slappin' The Bass - Vocal refrain by Parker Gibbs and chorus

Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds Of Joy - Blue Illusion

Am I Blue?
~Lyrics: Grant Clarke
~Music: Harry Akst

Am I blue, am I blue
Aint these tears in my eyes tellin' you
Am I blue, you'de be too
If each plan with your man
Done fell through
Was a time I was his only one
But now I'm the sad and lonely one, Lordy
Was I gay, till today
Now he's gone and we're through
Am I blue

Was I gay, till today
Now he's gone and we're through
Am I blue
Oh he's gone, left me
Am I blue

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Special Thanks To:
The Red Hot Jazz Archives,
The Big Band Database, Scott Yanow,
and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.